Preparing the Drilling Location
Once the optimum location for drilling a natural gas well has been identified by our geologists and engineers, Chief will survey the area for any existing structures, including homes, pipelines and power lines. We also work with local agencies to gather information regarding streams and local habitat to assure appropriate measures are taken to protect the environment. After obtaining a variety of permits, including transportation, environmental, driveway, highway occupancy, erosion and sediment control general permits and water consumptive use and drilling permits, we are ready to begin our operations.
First, we work with the landowner to establish access to the drilling site. The site is then cleared and prepared for operations. Storage containers are brought onsite to store the materials used in drilling, and a drilling rig is erected at the location. It takes about 9-12 days to drill each well on the pad site.
In a horizontally drilled well, specially designed tools are used to guide the drill bit in a specific direction. Horizontal drilling minimizes the disruption to the surface land, as multiple areas of natural gas may be accessed from the same well pad, simply by changing the direction in which the drilling occurs.
Fracture Stimulation/Hydraulic Fracturing
Fracture stimulation involves the use of water to break up the shale that holds the natural gas. Water, mixed with sand and a small amount of highly diluted chemical additives, is pumped into the ground at a high pressure, and breaks up the rock so the natural gas may be released. Hydraulic fracturing is commonly referred to as “fracing” in the natural gas industry. This process takes about a week per well to complete.
Well Completion and Clean Up
After the well is drilled, storage tanks and safety equipment are also installed. All heavy equipment, frac tanks and trailers are removed from the location, leaving only the flowback equipment and the permanent production facilities. The debris is removed and the area is fenced for safety.
The company monitors the site and its operations and production 24 hours a day. At this point, the well is just beginning its life of production which can last 10-30 years or longer.
Productive Life of Well
Marcellus wells produce natural gas for decades depending upon the well’s characteristics. The well location should be a static location, properly fenced or gated for security and safety purposes. The well site is monitored 24 hours per day from Chief’s Operations Control Center, where we ensure the well is operating within specific parameters. Traffic on the well site should be limited to pick-up trucks for Chief’s vendors and employees, and water trucks to haul produced water from the location. Later in the life of a well, artificial lift equipment such as plunger lift or compression may be installed to assist the well in producing natural gas. The instances of heavy equipment such as a workover rig on location are rare, occurring only when Chief has to intervene in a well for operational reasons.
Pipelines are needed to transport the natural gas from the well location to an appropriate processing facility. Chief will contract with midstream companies to transport the natural gas from the wellhead to the end-user.